By JOHNSON EBIGIDE
The path to glory in every human endeavour is strewn with roses and thorns. It is a rough terrain through low level landscape, up stony hills, jagged mountains, down to slippery ravines, crossing shallow muddy rivers and wallowing through turbulent mighty rivers onto the sandy shores of expectations. It is a journey which only the focused, determined, courageous and, most times, the fortunate trudge through to success. A clear panorama of human existence from birth to death!
The path to glory of the Delta State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) is even more arduous, depicting human frailties and foibles in every curve of the long and undulating path. For a very long period, the NUJ was on life support with most conscientious members and concerned stakeholders of the union in the state and beyond wondering if it would ever survive the situation. But like the legendary cat with nine lives, it struggled on to its short lived glory during the Ikeogwu leadership of the union in the state!
The NUJ journey to its enviable status in Delta State and beyond during the Ikeogwu leadership started with the creation of the state in 1991 from the defunct Bendel State. The pioneer chairman of the union in the state, Comrade Ovuozuorie Macaulay, who was later elected chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress ( NLC ) in the state and thereafter appointed into strategic political positions in the state government, including being commissioner, Chief of Staff and Secretary to the State Government ( SSG), is currently the Director-General of the Warri-Effurun Development Agency in the state. Comrade Macaulay actually laid the requisite solid foundation upon which subsequent leaderships of the union could have consolidated its growth into an unwavering status in the state.
However, rancour and bickering set in almost immediately Comrade Macaulay completed his two terms as chairman of the union in the state. At various times members could not elect any consensus chairman, resulting in having interim leaderships to pilot affairs of the union in a most ridiculous scheme that left the union and its members being described as a bunch of troublesome pen pushers in the state.
By 2003, however, fortune visited the troubled union once more with the election of Comrade Edward Akpati Ogude as the chairman, to the joy of members and critical stakeholders in the state and beyond. But joy is said to have a slender frailty body! Hence, the sudden euphoria surrounding the emergence of Comrade Ogude as chairman not only came to an embarrassing abrupt end, but it brought the worst shame to the union in the state and beyond! This was owing to the embattled chairman dragging the entire structure of the union in the state and at the national level to court. It was the worst eclipse of the journey of the union to its present glory. Not only were members of the union treated like lepers and shunned in most occasions, the general public and most government functionaries distanced themselves from any issues concerning the union in the state. Divide and rule machinations set in from the public, resulting in some journalists in some media houses being preferred to their colleagues in some other media organizations. The experience was so excruciating! It was a nightmare any journalist that practised in the state during the said logjam would remember with a shiver!
It is said that the darkest hour is nearest the dawn! After the said rudderless position of the union and the makeshift interim leadership of Comrade Ben Ogbogo, Comrade Osita Biose was elected as chairman of the union in the state. His emergence and traducing could be likened to that of Jesus Christ to mankind. Not only was he scorned and several demeaning aspersions cast on his person, his detractors x-rayed his every move and statement with microscopic concentration to ensure they had reasons to condemn his being the chairman. But he was a child of destiny! Some powerful politicians in the state who had hitherto watched proceedings of the union with caution from a safe distance, seeing that the union was once again seething in rancour, suddenly pounced on the expansive allotted plot of land belonging to the union along the Delta State Broadcasting Service Road in Asaba. Comrade Biose cried out in a strident condemnation of the surreptitious plans of the invaders on the union’s land, calling on the entire members and other critical stakeholders of the union in the state and beyond to protect the land from being stolen by interlopers whom he described as unholy opportunists. And for once, the entire members of the union in the state rallied round the Comrade Biose leadership to salvage the situation, but to no avail, as it was too late to cry when the head was cut off!
Although, the said plot of land could not be saved from the paws of the rapacious politicians, not only was necessary attention drawn to the sudden unity of purpose among members of the union in the state, resulting in the state government under the watch of the then Governor Uduaghan allocating another plot of land (though smaller) along the Mariam Babangida Way in Asaba to the union. Although Comrade Biose voluntarily withdrew from the race for a second term, his eventful one term in office as the chairman of the union in the state is the fountain of the peace from which subsequent leaderships of the union ought to have drawn inspiration towards building a virile NUJ in the state.
With the exit of Comrade Biose came the entrance of Comrade Norbert Kpamiose Chiazor who enjoyed relative peace in his two terms in office during which the building of the union press centre in Asaba commenced. It is also to his record that some journalists in the state were sponsored by the state government to attend a journalism course in Reuther Institute of Journalism in London. Comrade Chiazor was recently appointed Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Delta State, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa.
Then came the icing on the cake, the emergence of Comrade Mike Ikeogwu as the Chairman of the NUJ in Delta State! The leadership of Comrade Ikeogwu not only demonstrated high level of responsiveness, selflessness, managerial competence and rare coordinating excellence among the various chapels of the union in the state, Comrade Ikeogwu as a person has proven the truism that humility is the magnetic force that attracts trust and confidence of members of any group to the leadership of the group. Within a short space of time the union under his watch had brought the elusive recognition the union deserves in the state and beyond. The 2019 press week organized by the state council of the union in the state which recorded unprecedented success with highly placed personalities in attendance during the grand finale in Asaba is an attestation to the great things that happened in the union during his first term as chairman of the union in the state. Several achievers, including Comrade Osita Biose , who bagged the highly esteemed “The Peace Ambassador Of NUJ”, received awards of excellence, just as the much needed support for the completion of the NUJ Press Centre in the state received major boost from critical stakeholders during the occasion.
Again, it was not until lately that the redemptive essence of Ikeogwu came to light when some of his detractors came hard on him to account for the money given him by the state government to complete the press centre of the union in the state. Unknown to members that the building handed over to him by his predecessor was built of sand without enough cement to strengthen it, Ikeogwu had quietly but determinedly pulled down a greater part of the already dilapidating building and started it off afresh to preempt the danger of the building collapsing and killing members of the union during any of their congress in the state. The press centre has since been converted from the erstwhile embarrassing 17th century roofing pattern handed over to him to a more alluring and trending roofing structure.
But it appears that peace is once again eluding the council of the union in the state. Recent events heralding the last botched election and its unfortunate aftermaths of the union are indications that members of the union in Delta State are yet to come to term with the urgent need to form a common front, towards taking the union in the state and beyond to the envisaged respectable heights in the country.
As the first tenure of the Ikeogwu leadership of the union was winding up, the council through the state congress of the union had constitutionally instituted a credentials screening committee to midwife a credible and fair elections of the union in the state. The first sign of discord was the defection of two important members of the Ikeogwu leadership, who inexplicably left to form alliance with some perceived godfathers of the union in the state.
After much digging deep into the infractions in the council, it was discovered that the said hooded godfathers who, before now, were unknown to most members to be responsible for the lacklustre growth of the union in the state and beyond, came to the open. They were accused to have forcefully taken away greater parts of available funds of the council, leaving it to contend with inadequate funds to implement any laudable project of the union in the state. That explains why the union has no press centre after the creation of the state since August 27, 1991!
It was discovered that Comrade Ikeogwu was ensnared to sign a hazy undertaken with the said godfathers to hand over to a particular chapel of the union in the state after his tenure as the chairman of the union in the state. However, what was not clear in the said tenure was whether it should be one tenure or two! But all indications point to the exasperation of the godfathers, who are unhappy with the uncompromising postures of Ikeogwu to loot the funds of the union in the state. It was this frustration that led the godfathers to incite the defected members of the Ikeogwu leadership, particularly the one that was expected to be returned as the council chairman of the council, against their principal.
In the course of the discharge of the functions of the credentials screening committee of the union in the state, it was discovered that the attendance list of congresses of the union in the state was falsified with signatures of some members forged to enable them meet up with the constitution of the union concerning congress attendance. This, the committee did not treat with kid’s gloves, as it constitutionally disqualified the concerned contesting candidates, including their facilitator, in the scheduled election of the union in the state.
This, expectedly raised a deafening uproarious outcry from the godfathers who further went underground, working frantically to thwart all genuine intentions and efforts of the committee to conduct a free and fair elections of the union in the state, leading dangerously to a possible breach of the constitution of the union, if the recommendations of the committee to the national secretariat of the union in Abuja were upturned.
Meanwhile, the national secretariat of the union had earlier embarked on a nationwide registration of members who were thereafter issued with identity cards as the genuine members of the union in the country. When the registering team from Abuja arrived, first, to Asaba and later to Warri, they met not many on ground to register, as most members of the union in the state thought that it was an exercise in futility, believing also that the Identification cards were valueless! Therefore, many refused to pay the token fee and failed to register as recognised journalists in the country!
Though, the national secretariat of the union had upturned the earlier decision of the credentials screening committee of the union in the state, concerning the attendance list of congresses, perhaps, to create a level playing ground for all the contestants in the elections, the inconsistency of the national secretariat in playing double standards during the botched elections, earlier scheduled to hold at the St. Patrick’s playing ground in Asaba, was a further denigrating of the constitution of the union. The national secretariat in Abuja had earlier conveyed its decision that only duly registered members with the union identity cards should be allowed to vote and be voted for in the elections; only for the same national secretariat in a phoney phone call through the national secretary hurriedly shifting the posts when the match had already started with the dissolution of the Ikeogwu leadership of the union in the state. It came as a rude shock that all members, including the unregistered, could vote, even when the identity cards had been successfully used in the conduct of the union elections in Edo, Akwa Ibom states, and was even being used at Nassarawa, the same day Delta State election was being scuttled! Most members saw the move as giving the opportunity for mercenaries who are not members to vote in the elections.
With the elections scuttled, the two waring parties in the state forwarded two different lists of caretaker committee of the council to the national secretariat which were promptly rejected, directing instead, the South South geopolitical Vice President of the union, Comrade Edward Akpati Ogude, to convene a meeting of all the chairmen and secretaries of chapels in the state to elect an acceptable caretaker committee of the union in the state council.
The meeting which was moderated by the Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr. Charles Ehiedu Aniagwu with Comrade Ogude was hugely successful. At the end of proceedings, Comrade Sonia Unobunjor of the Delta State Broadcasting Service Chapel in Warri emerged Chairman of the caretaker committee, while Comrade Emmanuel Ekebe of the Isoko Chapel is to serve as Secretary in the 7-man committee.
The committee is to act in tandem with the existing credentials screening committee withing the stipulated constitutional time frame of the union of not more than three months, within which all the grey areas militating against the conduct of the council election of the union are expected to be addressed, towards the successful conduct of a free and fair election of the union in the state.
Yes, let’s hope that this fresh move, made possible by Mr Aniagwu would ensure the return of the union in the state to its glorious path in the search for greater development of not only the union in the state and beyond, but uplifting the welfare of its members and making the society a better place for all through the cardinal agenda setting role of journalists.
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